, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 468-475

A model for the correlation of mutation rate with GC content and the origin of GC-rich isochores

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Based on the biochemical kinetics of DNA replication and mutagenesis, including misincorporation and correction, a model has been developed for studying the relationships among the mutation rate (u), the G + C content of the sequence (f), and the G + C proportion in the nucleotide precursor pool (N). Also a measure for the next-nucleotide effect, called the maximum capacity of the next-nucleotide effect (MC), has been proposed. Under the normal physiological conditions of mammalian germ cells, our results indicate: (1) the equilibrium G + C content in a sequence is approximately equal to the G + C proportion in the nucleotide precursor pool, i.e., fN, which is independent of the next-nucleotide effect; (2) an inverted-V-shaped distribution of mutation rates with respect to G + C contents is predicted, when the next-nucleotide effect is week, i.e., MC ≈ 1; (3) the distribution becomes flatter (i.e., inverted-U-shaped) as MC increases, but the peak at 50% GC is still observed when MC < 2; and (4) the peak disappears when MC > 2.8, that is, when the next-nucleotide effect becomes strong. Our results suggest that changes in the relative concentrations of nucleotide precursors can cause variations among genes both in mutation rate and in G + C content and that compositional isochores (DNA segments with a homogeneous G + C content) can arise in a genome due to differences in replication times of DNA segments.

Correspondence to: W.-H. Li